Transforming Parking to Places
in Southern California
Los Angeles :
Pioneer of the
Car-Oriented City
Parking spaces in LA
cover an area
4.4 times the size
of Manhattan
This study explores the potential
of repurposing these surface
parking lots across LA County

The MORE LA Project

For the third annual LA CoMotion conference in Los Angeles, Woods Bagot prepared a major research and design study: MORE LA: Transforming Parking to Places in Southern California.

This page describes the research study and interactive survey prepared by SUPERSPACE as the first part of this project. The complimentary second part, undertaken by the San Francisco and Sydney Woods Bagot studios, reimagined the architectural and urbanistic possibilities of a 'parking-free' city through exploration of future design typologies.

MORE LA was introduced at a special workshop event at LA CoMotion, in the Arts District, on 15 Nov 2018, with an interactive installation from 15-17 Nov.

In Los Angeles, parking drives everything.

Frances Anderton, Author & Producer

To understand the public sentiment towards the changes in mobility and potential for redevelopment of parking spaces, SUPERSPACE is conducting a public online survey on redevelopment level. Go straight to the survey here.

The Research Story

Los Angeles: City of Commuters

In Los Angeles, almost 80% of workers commute to work by car, and only 10% use public transport: car use is built into the city's DNA. Mapping those daily commutes produces images of criss-crossing flows across the city: images illustrating the reality of hours and hours in cars for LA workers.

Commutes of people working in Downtown (left) and East LA, and commutes of people who live in Inglewood (centre)1

The LA commute is one of the worst in the US: each person averaging 30 minutes daily commute and a total of 104 hours spent in traffic jams per year, much longer than New York (89 hours), Washington (6 hours), Boston (58 hours), or San Francisco (83 hours). 2

This dependency on private cars necessitates a huge amount of parking. Using an open-access dataset on surface-level parking lots 3, we calculated that the area of land dedicated to parking in LA county is 4.4 times the size of Manhattan (101 square miles), and just within the LA City boundary is larger than the area of Pasadena (27 square miles).

Distribution of grade level parking lots greater than 500 sqm (5400 sqft) 3

Changing Travel Patterns

With improvements in public transport, as well as increased uptake of car-sharing platforms and even automated vehicles on the horizon, there is a real possibility that private car-use in LA could sharply decline. The maps below show levels of access to other forms of multi-modal transport:

  • Walking and bus
  • Walking and metro
  • Metro and car-sharing
Access to the metro is greatly improved if we can assume a 'last-mile' service with either automated vehicles or car-sharing services.

We imagine a future where car use is declining, and the need for all that parking is drastically reduced.

Redevelopment Potential

Much has been written about the benefits of reducing parking, notably by Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of planning at UCLA:
    'For a concert hall, Los Angeles requires, at a minimum, 50 times more parking spaces than San Francisco allows as the maximum. This difference in planning helps explain why downtown San Francisco is much more exciting and livable than downtown Los Angeles.'4

Our first thought was: housing. LA has a well documented housing shortage 5. We developed a model which analysed the nearby density of each parking lot (within a 200m radius), and simulated developing each lot up to that density.

If 100% of the parking lots in LA county were developed to a density matching their immediate surroundings, over a million new homes would be created, housing over 3 million more people.

Clearly LA is not going to suddenly redevelop 100% of its parking lots with housing, but redeveloping a percentage, in some strategic areas, could make a big difference. And these figures assume densities in keeping with their surroundings, not high-rise buildings where they wouldn't be in character.

In reality a mix of land-uses might be proposed, to achieve a good work-live balance in neighbourhoods, to provide new social amenities such as open spaces, and to activate the streetscape with more amenities to encourage pedestrians: there would be opportunity to radically change the urban fabric.

The graph above shows the green-space provision vs parking provision per person for the neighbourhoods within the metropolitan area of LA: the large majority of neighbourhoods have more surface-level parking than green-space. According the the Trust for Public Land, only 55% of Los Angeles residents have walkable access to a park (within half a mile), making Los Angeles' green-space much less accessible than some other large cities (such as New York (97%), Philadelphia (93%) and Chicago (92%)) 6. Repurposing some parking as green-space could be one way to improve access.

Neighbourhood Character

To explore the differences between neighbourhoods, we profiled the neighbourhoods of the LA Metropolitan area 7 against a range of metrics key to understanding the redevelopment needs in each (shown below for three neighbourhoods):

  • FAR (Floor area ratio)
  • Dwelling Unit Density
  • Ratio of Residents to Jobs/Workers
  • Ethinic diversity
  • Household (HH) Size
  • Population per square mile
  • Distance to Metro stop
  • Distance to Bus stop
  • Parking area

These metrics were used to select four neighbourhoods with diverse social, spatial and economic characters. Within each neighbourhood a prototypical site was chosen as a reference for which these metrics provided the socio-spatial benchmarks. For each of these four sites typology studies by the Woods Bagot design teams were presented as part of MoreLA.

To gauge public opinions on the balance of priorities and redevelopment level for these four neighbourhoods SUPERSPACE also developed an interactive survey.

Online Survey

We want to find out what people want more of in LA. More houses? More density? More green space?

As part of our research we developed an interactive survey that allows the user to explore the untapped potential of LA's parking lots, and to voice their opinion on how the balance they'd like to see as LA develops in this hypothetical scenario where you have all the parking lots to play with. The survey allows you to choose one of four neighbourhoods: Downtown, East LA, Inglewood or Koreatown. Using sliders you can then create a scenario you like, balancing these questions:

  • What percentage of parking lots should be developed?
  • What percentage of these should be given to green space?
  • What percentage higher than the local density should each lot be developed to?

This survey was available to interact with at LACoMotion 2018, and is also online at using the button below. 8

Results of the survey will be available here soon. Enter your email when submitting your opinions to keep in touch.


Christian Derix, Director
Fabio Galicia
Lucy Helme
Dave Towey



Nik Karalis and James Sanders 'Los Angeles is a city of parking lots. It doesn't have to be', LA Times

Justin Fox 'The Least Affordable Housing Markets Aren't Where You Think', Bloomberg

Elijah Chiland 'In LA, land dedicated to parking is larger than Manhattan. A new study asks: What if that space was used for housing instead?', LA Curbed

Andrew Tuck - The Urbanist 'LA CoMotion Part 1', Monocle

Eillie Anzilotti 'The city of the future is one with way less parking', Fast Company

Heather Clancy and Joel Makower - GreenBiz 350 Podcast Tom Steyer's call for corporate activism; from parking lots to paradise?, GreenBiz


'Woods Bagot-Sponsored Study MORE LA Anticipates Major Transportation Changes for Los Angeles' on
'Woods Bagot Investigates Los Angeles' Future Mobility at LA CoMotion' on
'MORE LA | Transforming Parking Places in Southern California' featured on


1. LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES)
2. via
3. Parking Lot Boundaries 2014, Los Angeles County GIS Data Portal
4. 'The High Cost of Free Parking', Donald Shoup, 2011
6. 2017 City Park Facts, Trust for Public Land, accessed December 2018: CityParkFacts_2017.4_7_17.FIN_.LO_.pdf
7. Neighbourhood boundaries were taken from the LA Times boundary definitions. Data from the US census 2010, the American Community Survey 2011-2016 and the LA County data portal
8. Interactive survey application built with Mapbox